Although newborn death rates have decreased over the last 20 years, a new study shows that the U.S. neonatal mortality rankings have plummeted by 26 percent. The U.S. is now tied for having the 41st lowest risk of newborn death, down from a ranking of 28th two decades ago, with a current neonatal death rate of 4.3 per 1,000 live births.
Neonatal deaths have decreased by a good margin—28 percent—but work to improve newborn health care in the U.S. has not progressed at the rate of other industrialized nations, sending its rankings into the middle of the pack. No longer a healthcare leader in this arena, the U.S. ranks in the same spot as Qatar, Croatia and the United Arab Emirates.
The study shows that babies born in countries including South Korea, Cuba, Malaysia, Lithuania, Poland and Israel are now more likely to survive than those born in the United States.
According to Joy Lawn of Save the Children who was involved in the research, “It’s not that things are worse in the United States than before, it’s that the U.S. isn't making progress like other countries.” She noted that one of the major challenges faced by the United States is complications from preterm birth since the U.S. rate of preterm birth is double that of Northern Africa and European countries. Although little can be done to prevent preterm birth, premature babies born to disadvantaged people in the U.S. may be less likely to receive the costly extra care they need.
While The U.N. releases annual reports on the deaths of children under the ages of 5 and 1, newborn death estimates are only released periodically. This prompted researchers from the non-governmental organization Save The Children, The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the World Health Organization (WHO) to focus on global newborn mortality rates.
Their findings revealed that overall, newborn deaths decreased from 4.6 million in 1990 to 3.3 million in 2009. But they also found that the deaths of infants less than 4 weeks of age account for 41 percent of all child deaths occurring before the age of five worldwide, an increase of 4 percent since 1990.